Volunteering at the Naval Academy was lots of fun :)
For me, at least, since I was running around queuing teams, my feet were dead by the end of it, but it was still great. The midshipmen helped the teen volunteers out, which was really nice of them. Coach Gorman was a referee, and she didn't have to give out any penalties. Juan Diego inspected robots at the beginning and then hung around to watch the robots practice and compete for the rest of the day. Jane reset the fields, which meant trying to do homework in the two minute breaks during matches and then suddenly having to get up to put the debris back in the right places. Everything went well, plus it snowed afterwards ❄☃
And then! we had our second qualifier of the season.
There were so many teams competing at that qualifier that they had three competition fields (😮), which is something I've never seen before. We lost our first match, so that wasn't the best start. But for our second match, everything went fabulously--our Autonomous functioned perfectly, and the driving was very smooth. However, one of the teams on the other alliances was prevented from playing due to a lander malfunction, so we had to replay the match. Even so, we did nearly as well again. We won all of our matches (except the first), which was awesome. By the end, we were in 10th or 11th place out of at least thirty teams. Final alliance selection came, and unfortunately we weren't chosen. But in the Awards Ceremony, we received the Judge's Award! That was really neat. While we didn't advance to States, it was still a satisfying day.
Our new phones have arrived! Jane is currently trying to configure them to the robot, but she seems to be running into some de-initialization problems and is figuring out how to solve them. The robot arm has been replaced by our fabulous new design, too :) And Benedict was right--it really does lift the robot up very quickly and quite smoothly. Hopefully nothing will malfunction at our second qualifier in two weeks.
Tomorrow, we're heading out to the Naval Academy in Annapolis to volunteer for the qualifier hosted by RM’D and Dangerous. Veronica is queuing the teams up for their matches, Jane is a field resetter, and JD is inspecting robots.
Our team actually used to host this qualifier back when we had more people on the team, but now that there's only four of us we don't have enough manpower to do that anymore.
Last Saturday was our first qualifier of the season!
At the driver's meeting before the matches, the head referee told us about a rule in the game manual that we hadn't noticed before--at the start of a match, in order to get the 30 points for hanging from the handle on the lander, the robot has to be four inches off the ground, not just off the ground like we had thought. Fortunately, though, the robot didn't have to be hanging at the beginning in order to gain 50 points for hanging at the end, like it had been. The end-game hanging didn't have to be hanging four inches like the start of the match, just off the ground.
The second match we were in was our best. Even though our alliance partner's robot malfunctioned and got stuck on the field, we only lost that match by 3 points (13 if you count a minor penalty for not stopping the TeleOp program right away)--which means that we were a match for the other two teams in the opposing alliance on our own. The Autonomous code worked, the controls were responsive, we were able to hang and snag those 50 points at the end. Things were looking really good--we figured that if our alliance partner was helpful in the rest of our matches, then we would do very well indeed.
Our overall match performance was less than great, though--for whatever reason, our strafing was not working well, which hurt our maneuverability on the playing field. For one match, we thought we put in a fresh battery, but it turned out that it was actually a nearly dead battery, causing our Autonomous code to malfunction and our TeleOp code to stop working for that match. For the last two matches, the phone connections basically died, which prevented our TeleOp code from working again. We also got yellow-carded for accidentally uprooting the tiles around the lander while trying to hang in one match, but thankfully that didn't happen again.
However! Things are not as bad as they may sound--we know what went wrong, and we've come up with a way to fix it. We've already ordered new phones, and they're on their way to us. The Autonomous code could use a bit of improvement, too, but that also is doable. Benedict figured out a new arm design to give us the height we need, and according to his calculations, it should lift us up in little more than a single second. That's way faster than the fifteen or so seconds we had before.
Things are looking pretty good--the robot is built, the judges' presentation parts are being written, the notebooks are sort of ready, and we have a functioning Autonomous code! Our robot can now unhang itself from the lander, drop off our marker in our alliance's square after a cool spin, then turn around and park partially into the crater.
Once Jane finishes polishing up the code, we can properly begin drive practice on our handy dandy practice field. We also need to run through the judge's presentation a few times to make sure we know it well. Another thing on our to-do list is making the presentation board for our table in the pits for curious people to come and learn about our team.
Only three meetings left, including today, until our first qualifier!
Benno's been adjusting the robot's arm--putting strings and a length of surgical tubing on it so that our gears don't have to work as hard. He still needs to make the motor-powered spool to wind the strings back up again, but that should be a fairly simple thing to do. JD's been helping to engineer the arm, as well as fixing up the engineering and team notebooks. Jane's been writing a bunch of pseudocode for the autonomous portion of the match and keeping up with Instagram. I might be the gunner this year, which means I need to get plenty of drive practice in.
As a team, we need to practice our judges' presentation--we've worked out who's going to talk about what, but it's only a rough draft so far at best. Also, everybody needs to write their bios in the team notebook, but we can't do that until JD sets the right pages up and puts our pictures in there.
Benno was struck with a bolt of inspiration today--he figured out a way to reduce the stress on the worm gear by some 95%, which is amazing ( :0 ) From what I can tell, it involves cutting a rod using the Dremel and hooking up a couple spools of string to motors instead of wearing out our poor worm gear. JD is helping him out with that, so they're getting that all taken care of. The thread locker didn't work last meeting, so hopefully this will do the trick.
Also, Benno and JD are trying to come up with a design for our mineral-collecting arm, which shouldn't be too hard to add to the robot.
Jane, meanwhile, is figuring out the code for the hanging arm, but until Benno and JD finish what they're doing, we can't test it out.
37 days left until our FIRST (pun intended) qualifier! I can't wait ( :D )
Our bracket and crater wall sections came today, so I assembled that and we put it on top of a bunch of floor mat sections so we could practice driving with it. Benno drilled a couple holes in the side of our small bookshelf and attached the bracket to it at the right height to mimic the lander. Jane figured out how to solve our coding troubles and has configured the robot! The driving works very well now, which is something to celebrate 😁
So far it looks like we haven't quite figured out how to drive over the chassis wall, but with enough practice we'll be able to solve that problem. Hanging from the bracket is being somewhat troublesome as well, so Benno is trying to fix that using our handy dandy tube of thread locker.
We're hoping that December 9th will be our first qualifier date, which means that we have 44 days left.
The code is working, the robot is driving, it's a good day for our team.
We've decided to try resetting everything we can on the phones to see if that will help our coding troubles, but so far Jane says that it hasn't solved the problems she was hoping it would fix. So now she's figuring out how to erase the SD card as well--if that still doesn't work, we might just have to buy all new phones.
The order for the field parts from AndyMark has now been placed--we're getting a crater wall and the bracket to hang from (buying the entire lander would be $275, which is way too expensive when we can just attach the bracket to something at the proper height and use that as our lander).
Benno and JD are adding the final electronic components to the robot--they're making a space for the battery and putting Velcro on the chassis for the controller to go on.
Our Twitter account is doing well--I checked the 5-second video I had posted there three weeks ago, and it has 167 views, which is great ( :D ). We're steadily gaining more followers, too, which is cool.
Benedict cut away a small rectangle of the Lexan on top of the chassis so that we could fit the arm onto the robot and still be able to rotate it using a motor. It's strong enough that when someone holds it up off the ground and turns that motor on, the chassis will rotate itself to meet the arm--which means that it's strong enough to lift itself up during a match. Now all we have left to do is design, build, and attach our hook/scoop and write the programs we need, and we'll be good to go for the competitions. Well, plus fundraising and preparing for the judges' presentation.
It hasn't even been a month since the season kickoff, and already the robot isn't far from being finished. ( :D )
The weather was great outside today, making an excellent opportunity to take team pictures. Our team marker has also been made, complete with the Lego R2-D2 and blue marker signatures from all four team members.
Our chassis that we designed in the summer of 2017 and used last year for the 2017-2018 season is re-usable, which means that we don't have to build one from scratch this year. ( yay :D )
Our phones for programming are on low battery, but Jane is still able to wrote pseudo-code while they charge. There have been some problems with getting programs that have been uploaded to the phone that communicates with the robot to run for more than a split-second, but hopefully we'll be able to solve that soon.
Benedict has gotten started on designing the arm of the robot with CAD software and figuring out how to fit everything within the 18-inch cube sizing limit. We're going for a hook/scoop design to lower us down from/lift us up to the lander and retrieve minerals from within the crater walls. He's also begun attaching the support system for the arm onto the chassis.
We are the Droids, and we'll be keeping you updated on our progress.